Let's Go Surfing Now: British Surfing at the National Maritime Museum Cornwall

By Richard Moss | 17 July 2013

Exhibition Preview: The First Wave Project - The History of British Surfing at the National Maritime Museum Cornwall.


a photo of a woman surfing
Surfer Girl - Gwyn Haslock at Tolcarne Newquay in 1965.© Gwynedd Haslock
In the 1960s Brian Wilson’s Beach Boys may have conjured images of Californian beaches when they sang of the joys of surfing, but for British surfers today Cornwall is just as likely to spring to mind as a good place to catch a wave.

British surfing has come a long way; from an almost unthinkable pastime sixty years ago confined to just a handful of brave pioneering souls - to an activity enjoyed by thousands all year round with Cornwall an internationally established surf destination.

This display reveals this story in the words of the British surfers form the early pioneers riding waves on make-shift wooden boards, to current proponents of what is now a cultural phenomenon.

Over 100 video and audio interviews are featured - culled from the archive of the First Wave Project, a Heritage Lottery Fund supported scheme to record stories about the history of British surfing.

Among them is Gwyn Haslock, one of the first women surfers in Britain, who recalls how she bought a deep sea diving suit from Mike Farmer’s sport shop in Truro to help her surf in the winter. Gwyn bought her first surfboard in 1965 aged 21.

Similarly Jennifer Pennar (nee Cokes) remembers teaching herself to surf aged 14 on a wooden bellyboard. Jennifer was crowned the 'Surf Queen of Great Britain' in 1957 and still surfs today. 

Exhibitions Manager and keen Cornish surfer Ben Lumby says the museum is “delighted” to be supporting the First Wave Project. 

“Having spent many happy hours surfing Cornish waves and being involved in the local surf scene, this small display provides a fascinating glimpse into the early years of the sport,” he says.

The exhibition is accompanied by photographs and historic surf boards lent by the Museum of British Surfing in Devon.


a photo of a woman surfing
Surfer Girl in Blue, Gwyn Haslock in 1962.© Gwynedd Haslock
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